Health and Human Services

Planning a Racially Equitable COVID-19 Recovery

We are months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizations are moving from response to recovery. Unfortunately, racial inequities in COVID-19 cases, deaths, and economic impacts continue. Black, Latinx, and Native American communities are disproportionately harmed by this crisis. As a result, recovery efforts must address the health and economic crisis with a racial equity lens. Focusing on racial equity during COVID-19 recovery means directing proportional resources toward where the needs are greatest in the community.  This helps to stop perpetuating existing inequalities.

GIS Can Support a Racially Equitable Recovery

GIS can help organizations make equitable policy and planning decisions. For example, GIS can help understand who will benefit most from any policy or plan. To exemplify, we will review GIS resources for equitable planning. We will focus on three scenarios:

  • Support Women- and/or Minority-Owned Businesses
  • Plan Coronavirus Testing Site Locations Equitably
  • Evaluate County Readiness for Relaxing Stay-at-Home Measures Equitably

Support Women- and/or Minority-Owned Businesses

During recovery, government and non-profit organizations are supporting small businesses. We know there is a disproportionate economic impact on women– and/or minority-owned businesses. So, it is important to support small business recovery in a racially equitable way. To do so, you must first identify where women- and/or minority-owned businesses are in your community.
The Small Business Impact Survey collects information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. By surveying, businesses in your region can report how they have been affected by the pandemic. Moreover, the survey asks businesses whether they are women- and/or minority-owned. By using this designation, economic development, and relief groups can filter the survey responses.
The Small Business Impact Dashboard helps track information collected from the survey. By using the dashboard, officials can break down responses by women- and/or minority-owned business owners. By filtering responses, officials can visualize disparities and respond to them. This dashboard helps understand the needs of women- and/or minority-owned businesses. Supporting women- and/or minority-owned businesses is one way to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with equity in mind. 
Screenshot of Small Business Impact Survey and Dashboard Applications
This screenshot shows the Small Business Impact Survey and Dashboard Applications that help capture information on the challenges and needs of women- and/or minority-owned businesses in your community.

Plan Coronavirus Testing Site Locations Equitably

Access to testing is critical to safely reopening. This blog post walks through Esri’s Coronavirus Testing Sites solution. This solution helps organizations identify at-risk populations. Next, you can locate testing sites that equitably serve areas of greatest need. At-risk populations can be quickly modeled using the Testing Site Allocation project. The risk model includes variables that help you identify racial and socioeconomic vulnerability. Organizations can select variables that align with risk factors specific to their community.
This model helps distribute sites equitably instead of equally across the community. Equitably distributing testing sites means siting according to the greatest need. The model assigns more weight to areas with more at-risk demographic groups. By weighing community risk, vulnerable groups have access in proportion to need. For a quick overview of these tools, you can also watch this 5-minute video.
GIF showing Risk Model with Demographic Risk Variables
This GIF shows how locations with higher risk demographic groups can be given higher priority in the spatial allocation model.

Finally, testing sites are only viable if residents know where they are and can access them. So, the solution includes a public-facing Testing Sites Locator application. Using the application, members of the public can find testing sites near them.

Evaluate County Readiness for Economic Reopening Equitably

Governments across the U.S. are planning to reopen their economies. When reopening, it is important to do so with a racial equity lens. For a racially equitable COVID-19 recovery, instead of reopening equally, governments can do so equitably. By doing so, organizations consider policy impact to Black and Latinx community members. GIS can help us do this.
This blog post describes how to identify areas where people are at a greater health risk from a reopened economy. It does so by combining race and ethnicity variables into an index. The index also includes data on confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, population with no health insurance, and healthcare resource capacity. Therefore, the workflow shows us which communities are more at risk from a health and economic standpoint during the reopening
List of some of the variables used in a GIS workflow evaluating readiness for economic reopening
List of some of the variables used in a GIS workflow evaluating readiness for economic reopening

We Want to Hear From You

How is your organization planning a racially equitable COVID-19 recovery? Please share your success, tips, and challenges by commenting here. In addition, you can share your experience and questions using the GIS for Equity and Social Justice GeoNet Forum.

About the authors

Clinton leads Esri's Racial Equity & Social Justice team and he also founded and leads the NorthStar of GIS, a community organization that focuses on racial justice and works to advance equity and belonging for people Black / African diaspora in GIS. Clinton advocates for justice, representation, and belonging for Black people and other people from underrepresented groups in GIS and STEM more broadly. Clinton takes an empathic approach to technology, beginning with real-world challenges faced by diverse communities and finding creative ways to implement practical solutions.


Margot Bordne is an Account Manager on Esri's Global Business Development team and Racial Equity & Social Justice team. Margot supports organizations across industries who leverage GIS to improve their operations and decision making capabilities, with a focus on the use of GIS for advancing equity and social justice. Margot also founded Esri's Women's Enablement & Career Advancement Network (WeCan) and has a Master's Degree in Diversity & Inclusion Leadership at Tufts University.

Rebecca finds innovative ways to leverage technology in addressing social and environmental problems. She works with nonprofits and local goverments to create sustainable solutions. She has a masters degree in Environmental Management from the Yale school of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

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